4 minute read
How This Successful Trial Attorney Kept His Case Moving with a Remote Bench Trial
The Superior Court of Los Angeles County, the largest trial court in the nation, still has restrictions on who can enter their courthouses more than a year into the pandemic.
These restrictions are part of their "Here For You, Safe For You" campaign focused on providing a safe environment and encouraging court business to be conducted remotely.
This court is not alone in these in-person trial regulations. Many courts are still operating at limited capacity out of concern for the health and safety of all parties.
Clients and their counsel are choosing between a virtual trial held on a videoconferencing platform or postponing their pending case indefinitely.
Attorneys who decided to proceed with their cases virtually face a host of obstacles. Those who use Zoom or other videoconferencing options struggle with observing witnesses’ demeanors, sharing evidence, and maintaining participant attention and engagement.
We’ve all seen the unfortunate mishap involving a lawyer in Texas who appeared before the judge with a cat filter he couldn’t remove.
When you finish reading, you’ll learn how a successful Los Angeles trial attorney refused to let his case be delayed any longer. He chose to adapt, used the latest remote litigation technology, and kept his bench trial moving.
Innovatively Embracing Remote Bench Trial Technology
Michael A. Sherman is a Partner and Chair of Business Litigation Practice at Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP. He is recognized as a leading trial lawyer by his peers and has decades of experience successfully handling disputes and litigation in various industries and businesses.
Michael’s trial skills and courtroom success earned him a spot on the “Top 100 Lawyers” in California list by the Daily Journal. He has consistently been named one of the “Best Lawyers in America.”
Seasoned by years of experience, Michael decided to proceed virtually with his remote bench trial in the matter of Abed Geid v. Mehany Mehany et al.
Originally filed in August of 2018 in Los Angeles County, the case was continued on multiple occasions for a variety of reasons. The bench trial, presided over by Judge Rupert A. Byrdsong, was the first virtual trial for the judge and both attorneys.
Michael says, “I recently used Steno for a three-week bench trial that was continued on multiple occasions due to COVID-19. Before signing up for the Steno virtual trial platform, my trial team test drove multiple competitive products.
"None came close to the ease of use and versatility of the Steno virtual trial package. Steno has an all-in-one package."
"With videoconferencing and exhibit presentation fully integrated, it's easy enough for your less tech-savvy senior attorney.”
This lawsuit was concerning a breach of fiduciary duties, and Michael presented a compelling case through strong visual evidence, including personal financial logs, emails, and hand-written correspondence.
The platform enabled him to share evidence for witnesses to annotate. He was also able to navigate language barriers through real-time translation from Arabic to English for multiple witnesses.
5 Techniques to Try During Your Next Remote Bench Trial
These expert techniques from Michael's bench trial playbook will help you use your videoconferencing platform to its fullest potential during your subsequent trials.
- Customize your view layout, so all relevant parties are observable at once. Limit your view to include five spots for the judge, court reporter, defense and plaintiff's attorneys, and witness.
- Prepare visual aids for opening statements and closing arguments that illustrate the strength of your case. Software like ][ TrialDirector helps you captivate and convince both the judge and jury.
- Organize your exhibits in advance and ask a colleague to attend the trial and assist you with the presentation of evidence.
- Encourage witnesses to annotate the exhibits to bring your argument to life.
- Maintain eye contact with the camera and set the screen with your internal or mounted webcam as your primary monitor. This helps emulate an in-person trial, simulating eye contact with the judge, opposing counsel, and witnesses like you would in person.
Michael says, “Steno’s ease of use proved a huge advantage, as was the Steno moderator who guided us through the trial, with minimal downtime.
"While we are all looking to turn the corner and get back to law practice as normal, the fact remains that as so many of us have discovered a great deal of our law practice does not require the same amount of travel and dislocation as had been prevalent, pre-pandemic.
"The Steno virtual trial platform works great for trial, and is equally powerful and adaptable for depositions."
Judge Rupert A Birdsong was thrilled with the ease of use of the remote litigation platform. On the final day of the hearing once closing arguments concluded, he said, “I want to thank Steno for their absolute professionalism and diligence in making this virtual bench trial a reality.”
Watch days 9 through 14 of the remote bench trial, which was broadcast live on YouTube last month.
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